This is the first installment of a two book review. Both books are from publisher Christian Focus (the same one that published Feminine Threads). The first, I am My Sister’s Keeper by Denise George, addresses Christian women about ‘reaching out to wounded women’. The second, No More Hurting by Gwen Purdie, is about ‘life beyond sexual abuse’. It’s more specific in its topic but broader in its clientele.
I am My Sister’s Keeper is a brilliant idea: a short collection of Bible studies and advice about how to be with women in their pain. It’s not exhaustive (childlessness and singleness are absent, for example) but it does deal with things like divorce, past sin, spouse abuse, childhood sexual abuse and being a mother of a suicide victim. It’s not written for the women who experience those things but for the women who might be alongside them at church or in their neighborhood. It encourages them to listen to their stories and to consider how Jesus would act in that situation.
Unfortunately, the whole ‘how would Jesus act’ thing is pretty clumsily executed. George tries to find a woman Jesus interacted with who was feeling the same way but sometimes those stories just aren’t in the Bible. She deals with that in two ways. The first is to do some pretty creative exegesis. She characterises the woman in John 4 as a victim of no-fault divorce for men in the 1st century, for example. The second option is to make a parallel based on similar feelings, like both victims of childhood sexual abuse and the bleeding woman in Luke 8 feel humiliation. This second option is better than the first but comes across as a little anecdotal and ad hoc.
George’s approach also hampers her ability to bring a more robust theological perspective to the issues. For example, her answer to a mother’s concern that God would not forgive her daughter who suicided is that if she can forgive her daughter, God can too, because God loves her daughter even more than she does. This is theologically flimsy at best (does God just love everyone?) and George would be much better off arguing that the daughter’s sins, past, present and future, are forgiven because of Jesus’ once-for-all work on the cross. However, because she’s only willing to use stories of Jesus interacting with women, she cuts herself off from much useful material.
I had trouble trying to work out who I would give this book to. It’s less than 150 pages and written in size 14 font: it looks like a Grade 4 reader. It’s an easy read, full of touching stories: any Christian woman could use it. But I think that these are really serious issues, worth more than a superficial biblical treatment and a few platitudes. Even if it’s meant for the least biblically minded woman in the church, isn’t that more reason to make sure it’s theologically sound?
It’s a great idea, but I’m just not sure how usable it is.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.